CanoeVibes: How Penelope Scambly Schott uses backyard poetry to foster a sense of community

CanoeVibes: How Penelope Scambly Schott uses backyard poetry to foster a sense of community

It must be said, though, that Penelope Scambly Schott has the reputation of making people happy through the art of writing. It is in her DNA, and for more than fifty years, she has transformed ordinary letters into books that are being enjoyed by those in academia, as well as poetry addicts. Her poems are treasure troves. For the people of Dufur, the small farming community in north-central Oregon, she is well treasured.

So, on a scorching Monday evening when she setup a home reading of her works, together with fellow poet Margaret Chula and friends, a section of the community turned up with folding chairs and warm smiles. Dressed in a casual A-line summer dress, Penelope’s right wrist adorned with beads, she welcomed guests to the reading with a broad smile. She encouraged everyone to have a glass of wine and cookies. Those who wanted water also had theirs. Her white poodle freely mingled with guests, wagging the tail in excitement.

She took the microphone and offered a brief reason for the summer evening gathering; a colleague poet Margaret Chula was visiting, and it would be nice to invite friends for a casual summer backyard performance. It was my first time of meeting Penelope, though I have read one of two books that live in our home library back in Prampram.

One of them ‘Our Dufur Hill’ offers the un-initiated a cinematic insight into the town of Dufur and farming, relying heavily on relics of combine harvesters that once cut through thousands of acres of farmlands, harvesting soft white wheat shipped across the world.

The first to read was Margaret Chula. Ms. Chula has for the past thirty years been writing and teaching haiku and Japanese poetic forms. She is a major contributor to Oregon’s poetry scene and has several publications to her name, including ‘Daffodils at Twilight’ from which she shared a poem.

The poem reflects her relationship with the grandmother and how her dislike for “real horses” affected her.  Unable to overcome the painful experience of riding a horse for the first time at a summer camp, next when her grandmother made cookies in the shape of a horse, she took her revenge.

…I bit off all four of their legs; one by one

With my sharp small teeth.

Next was Penelope’s opening act which could be described as google map description of the trip one takes into Dufur. ‘Driving to Dufur’ is a carefully thought through poem which pays tribute to the town and its unique features.  She transitioned to a poem that is an ode to small town life and community ‘A Thought.’

A Thought

We all know who’s a cheapskate

and who used to hotwire cars.


Everybody is related to somebody

and we knew their grandparents,


or their kid is on the football team

or in Future Farmers of America.

 If this world were more like Dufur,

Could we stop killing each other?

 I believe one of the reasons I love this small farming community in north-central Oregon is its parallels to small town life on the other side of the world in Prampram. Community plays a large role of life in Prampram and within Ghana itself. In the vastness that is the United States and bustling cities you often lose that sense of empathy and the need to look out for one another.  Why can’t we all be more connected, to those we know well and those who are strangers? Why can’t we look out for our neighbours and lead with a sense of belonging, community, and love?  How I wish life was more like the Dufurs or Pramprams of the World…

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